Statement: Regional student loan credit experiment

25.2.2022

Regional student loan credit experiment from the perspective of engineering and BBA students

According to the preliminary study, the target group of the student loan credit is not the fields
of technology and BBA. This means that either recent graduates in the field of technology as
well as BBA students will benefit from the experiment based purely on the location of the
workplace, or the fields will be excluded from the opportunity to benefit from the student loan
credit. Both options clearly discriminate either those working outside the student loan credit
area or entirely the engineering and BBA students.


Where will the funds planned for the experiment come from? The livelihood of students,
regardless of field, is already at stake. There is a desire to take the already scarce resources
out of students' pockets and use them to promote regional and employment policies, which
is by no means acceptable. Student aid funds are not part of promoting political goals, but
purely of ensuring students' livelihoods.


Ethical questions


The purpose of a student loan is to secure a student's livelihood during their studies, and not
to act as a tool for state or regional policy in political matters. The share of study grants in
the study grant is still very low after the 2017 cuts.


“With the reform of the study grant implemented in autumn 2017, the amount of student
debtors and student debt has increased. In 2016, there were more than 166,000 student
debtors, and in 2020, more than 210,000. The average student loan for university students
was € 13,724, for polytechnic students € 11,381 and for students in secondary vocational
education EUR 8,521 in 2020. The average loan amount for all students increased by almost
70 per cent from 2016 to 2020.”


The above quote from the preliminary study is a real problem in Finland: Students are
becoming more and more indebted, which makes it easier to consider debtors as
political pawns in new systems and experiments such as this.
Instead, the Finnish
scholarship system should be changed from a loan-based to a support-based one, and in
general, students' livelihoods should be improved so that students have better conditions to
focus on school and graduation on time. Students' need for a loan and indebtedness in
general during their studies should therefore be reduced. Doing work in one's own field in
addition to studies is important and it brings practical teaching about working life and work
tasks in the field already during studies, but for too many students work is a prerequisite for
earning a living during their studies.

“The current scholarship system should focus on increasing student grants and reducing the
share of loans. It is wrong to use students' livelihoods for anything other than their livelihood
specifically. It is unreasonable to place students in a debt burden initially and to use student
debtors as policy tools after graduation,”
says Nicole Ojala, chairperson of the Union of
Engineering Students.


Starting points of the experiment

The Norwegian model, which is being partially implemented in Finland, is a large entity, the
purpose of which is to encourage positive migration in sparsely populated areas. In Norway,
the special support area has been in use for 31 years, so it has become part of the regional
development scheme for Finnmark and North Troms, for example, and its existence is not
called into question. Measures are currently being considered to be amended or added
in Norway. However, has the model produced the desired result in Norway as well, and
has the experiment really been useful?
Or is there so much money embedded in the
system that it is more profitable to try to develop the system further than to abolish it.


“The shortage of experts is a current problem, but a regional student loan credit is not a
viable solution to this. In our opinion, the problem could be solved by investing in training
systems for teachers and the social services, as well as in the placement of educational
institutions,”
says Eppu Åberg, chairperson of Students of Business and Technology.


The real problems with experimenting with a regional student loan credit


The Pilot Law Guide lists the criteria for carrying out an experiment legally, and one of these
is "experimental regulation is not discriminatory". The above criterion is not met if some
of the recent graduates benefit financially from the experiment. For example, those areas
that are not covered by the experiment, as well as those who do not have the opportunity to
move, would be discriminated against as a result of the experiment. The regional student
loan credit is thus in direct conflict with the equality regulation in Article 6 of the constitution.


According to the study, most of them leave for the Helsinki metropolitan area or larger
localities, which directly correlates with poorer employment opportunities in their own locality.
If employment opportunities were equal in localities, there would be less migration
from sparsely populated areas.
In that case, the answer to the labor shortage is not to
attract people to the region using money, as there are relatively more unemployed
jobseekers in the problem areas according to the preliminary study than elsewhere in
Finland.


There is little positive evidence from the feasibility study or the Norwegian model that
graduates remain in areas of labor shortage after redeeming the rebate. In the case of
teachers in particular, turnover directly affects the quality of teaching and the balanced
learning environment for children and young people in schools. Is it appropriate for people
to move to the regions for a few years to follow the proposed compensation and move
away after receiving the compensation?


The Union of Engineering Students and Students of Business and Technology oppose the
experimentation of a regional student loan credit due to its poor sample of the survey of
polytechnic students, the uncertainty of the experiment and especially the unethical nature.
Student livelihoods are not part of promoting policy goals.

 

This statement is written by Nicole Ojala, chairperson of the Union of Engineering Students together with Eppu Åberg, chairperson of Students of Business and Technology.

Eppu Åberg

Chairperson

040 414 7397

eppu.aberg@tradenomiopiskelijat.fi